I didn’t go vegan for the animals or the environment or my health.
Don’t get me wrong, I was a devoted animal lover and long time vegetarian. That transition happened at age 12 after watching Food Inc. But my vegan origin story began for an extremely self-centered reason; I wanted to see if I could give up cheese.
At the very end of my freshman year my roommate and I decided to try eating as fully raw of a diet as we could in a dorm room in the middle of Indiana. After 4ish days of our very bland diet that was mostly bananas and peanut butter, I decided now was the time to dive into a new challenge.
Since I was a self-described cheese-aholic, despite being lactose intolerant since birth, I thought this was the ultimate test of my willpower. At the ripe old age of 18, I hadn’t fully come to terms with my history of disordered eating.
I later realized this was a decision connected to my struggle with food but have grown a lot since then. So, after 4 days of eating raw plant-based foods, 6 years of being vegetarian, and an entire life of observing kosher customs, I jumped into eating fully plant-based.
I told myself I would commit to this for 1 year- just to see if I was mentally strong enough. That summer I worked for the second year as a camp counselor in Ojai, California. I ate a lot of carrots and hummus and Oreos. I didn’t have any vegan friends and I wasn’t on Instagram. Honestly I don’t even think I had a single friend who was vegan and didn’t realize I was lacking that social support.
In the fall, I went back to Indiana for my sophomore year and worked as a Resident Assistant. I spent the school year eating the same boring meals every single day. There was 1 vegetarian restaurant in my college town and I dined there a few times; overall, I was still going through my days eating accidentally vegan foods. Lots of bland dining hall salads, soy lattes, and too many bananas and peanut butter meals to count.
At the end of that school year I decided to spend the summer in Berkeley, California where I took summer classes and worked at a very popular ice cream shop and restaurant. When I hit my 1 year mark of eating fully plant-based, my partner and I went out and “celebrated” with a plate of nachos with extra cheese.
I was so excited, I remember they were delicious but I also remember having a horrible stomachache and having developing the worst acne I’d had in my 19 years. I ate cheese on and off that summer, but was never able to return to eating chicken eggs.
The thought of eating eggs literally turned my stomach and made my chest feel tight. This emotional and mental strain combined with the acne and consistent stomach aches was what ultimately pushed me to return to eating fully plant-based. Then, I found vegan social activities and other vegans in my college town. Gradually I came upon videos and literature and began to explore ethical veganism.
It was once I made the connection to the animals that I felt vegan. I started Googling everything before purchasing it, to check for animal testing and stopped buying clothing made from animal material. I certainly was not perfect, but I could feel in my heart that this was the right path for me.
My junior year of college was when I finally got on Instagram by making a vegan food account and this is truly what motivated me to continue to expand my veganism. I found vegan friends, learned about vegan products, started trying new recipes, and also sharing my experiences with others.
Now, almost 6 years later, I’m Veggie Kayla.
I’m an ethical vegan who has traveled the world eating food made from plants. I’ve adopted a rescue pup, lived in California, Midwest, and the East Coast, and am in the final stages of a Master’s of Science in Food & Nutrition Policy & Programs. I’m confident in my veganism and have found my place as an activist.
I will never go back to consuming animals or their byproducts. My journey is one of privilege. This is really important to recognize. I may be an in-debt college student but I’m fully food secure and have the time, energy, and the choice to shop for vegan-friendly products.
Time has also passed. It’s amazing how much more convenient it is to shop vegan across various industries and how many more people in my life are plant-based or vegan.
Of course my veganism is not and never will be 100% perfect. Instead, I choose to strive for progress and live as vegan as I can.
I am vegan for the animals, the earth, and because I truly believe
being vegan is the right thing.